Wednesday, August 13, 2014


We live, so they say, in the age of globalization. It started much earlier, of course, when traders first started travelling long distances to exchange goods. That likely is older than civilization. It picked up when longer distance trade opened up across central Asia, and when ships became capable of crossing wider seas.

John Darwin's After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 looks at that period since globe spanning sea voyaging began.

Globalization is an ambiguous word. It sounds like a process, but we often use it to describe a state – the terminal point after a period of change. All the signs are that, in economic relations at least, the pace of change in the world (in the distribution of wealth and productive activity between different regions and continents) is likely to grow. But we can, nonetheless, sketch the general features of the ‘globalized world’ – the stage which globalization has now reached – in a recognizable form. This is the ‘present’ whose unpredictable making the history in this book attempts to explain. These features can be briefly summarized as follows:

1. the appearance of a single global market – not for all but for most widely used products, and also for the supply of capital, credit and financial services;

2. the intense interaction between states that may be geographically very distant but whose interests (even in the case of very small states) have become global, not regional;

3. the deep penetration of most cultures by globally organized media, whose commercial and cultural messages (especially through the language of ‘brands’) have become almost inseparable;

4. the huge scale of migrations and diasporas (forced and free), creating networks and connections that rival the impact of the great European out-migration of the nineteenth century or the Atlantic slave trade;

5. the emergence from the wreck of the ‘bipolar age’ (1945–89) of a single ‘hyperpower’, whose economic and military strength, in relation to all other states, has had no parallel in modern world history;

6. the dramatic resurgence of China and India as manufacturing powers. In hugely increasing world output and shifting the balance of the world economy, the economic mobilization of their vast populations (1.3 billion and 1 billion respectively) has been likened to the opening of vast new lands in the nineteenth century.

Darwin, John (2010-08-08). After Tamerlane (pp. 7-8). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition.